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The Death of Fake Work

This year I came across a word that has stuck with me. There is "Goblin Mode" but this is about "Fake Work."

It is not a new word or phrase, but personally, I find it illuminating considering all the hustle and bustle happening with rising inflation. Almost everyone is running the race to avoid being broke, even though the outcome is not productively profitable for everyone. There is a need to work, but what quality of work? Being busy is attractive, and doing nothing is never in style because you do not want to be termed "lazy" in a world where every other person is achieving something (have you been to LinkedIn?).

So, I have made it a mission to deliberately avoid fake work in all aspects of my life, particularly in my Ph.D. endeavor. The aimless energy consuming spaces of fake work in our lives need to be checked because no one actually wakes up in the morning to say, "Ah, today I am doing some fake work." The intentions are always right, but it is ultimately, a waste of time and resources. Fake work is exhausting and drains the best part of your day. The chances are that you are committed to fake work now without even realizing it. Working even harder but getting nowhere. At least, pretend workers know they intend on achieving nothing, which is better than fake work where you intend to work but end up with nothing.

To understand fake work, here are some words by Rodger Dean Duncan from Forbes

Most fake work is not deliberate. Most fake work is perfectly well intended. People who engage in fake work—and that’s most of us at least some of the time, and some of us most of the time—just don’t notice that what they’re doing is not producing intended outcomes.
It’s not that people doing fake work aren’t busy. They’re often very busy. But they mistake activity for results. And working hard is not a barometer, because you can work very hard and still be building a road to nowhere. You might be doing fake work because you were told to do it. You might be doing fake work because you’re rewarded for doing it.

Learning to do nothing defiantly is sometimes a form of rebellion against the rat race fever and overachievers league of shenanigans. The determination to rest, sit still when it seems like time is racing away is a powerful state of mind to be. Knowing what productivity means for you and how to stay productively on track is key. Everywhere you turn, the word is to stay productive, but productivity is subjective, and the race to find your hustle and happiness in this life is dynamic. What works for everyone differs, which is made worse by this age of social media where everything seems to be "how hard you work." People barely catch any breathers or breaks from bills, debt, and whatever success they are chasing. Nobody wants to fail, so we are caught in the spinning web of work, work and more work.

There are specific indices based on popular algorithms of what counts as "it" and as "goals." Once someone goes viral for achieving something of significance, especially something material like money or some sort of internet fame, then the next thing is that you find everyone racing in that direction without understanding the underbelly of that person's story. The mistake of not being clear about what you want to achieve and brainstorming to break it down clearly will cost you in ways you may not understand instantly. The push to at least, do something, even when it is taking you nowhere, is a trap. Even if not all work is productive, there should be a lesson to be learned from every experience, and learning nothing from an activity itself should also be considered a lesson.


My journey into finding fake work spots in my life has been illuminating. From endless doom scrolling on social media, and pointless browsing for research to reading academic articles without assimilation or even going to the library, I have improved my productive experience. I am clearer on the things I want and learned to slow down on my Ph.D. journey because striving to meet deadlines and aiming to stay productive by all means can send you spiraling downhill into depression and anxiety. As a very hyperactive person by nature, I tend to do things on the go but growing older has changed and helped me to see life deeper and calm down. More importantly, I have realized it is okay to slow down knowing that just like the bus stop, another bus is coming if you just missed this one.

Personally, the goal at this point in my life is not to be "busy" on an active timeline going nowhere or an active timeline to prove that i am doing something, anything, everything...i aim to deliberately avoid fake work, and resist all the good intentions in my life to remain in the "activity trap." This includes weeding out people in my networks who urge me on with the fake work mentality because, ultimately, even if you choose not to commit to fake work, the people around you and the networks you operate in could be another reason for actively fake working.

Fake work must die and never resurrect in my productive life. What about you?

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